Comfort Food · Family Life · Salads · Side Dishes

Homesick, and My Mom’s Potato Salad

Dear Joey,

When I was a kid I suffered from severe homesickness: the kind that rendered me very poor company indeed. Tears and sleepless nights were my companions at sleepovers, and I vividly recall instance upon instance of begging my parents to let me go to a sleepover, only to call them in tears near midnight, begging to go home. More often than not, my dad lumbered his way to the car and drove to pick me up and waving his thanks to my hosts for their hospitality as he ducked back into the car to go home.

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Neither of my parents seemed to mind; if they were angry or inconvenienced, neither of them showed it. Big smiles and bigger hugs welcomed me home no matter how long the drive to pick me up (and sometimes, the drive was long.) In retrospect, they must have been peeved that their little girl couldn’t buck up and be brave and just go to sleep already. I know, because I feel this way about Addie sometimes when she tells me she doesn’t want to go to school for this one reason alone: she’s going to miss me.

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It happens like this: I hug her goodbye when I drop her off at school, but she runs back to give me a second, third, fourth hug before finally letting go of my hand to walk to the playground. I squeeze her hard and shoo her off to class, wondering why she doesn’t skip toward school like her sister who often runs to join friends without so much as a wave goodbye. I’m tempted to just walk away and let the kid deal with it already, but then I chide myself and give her grace every time because Addie is just like me. So I stand and watch her as she makes the long walk to line up, and I wave the whole time, watching as she flashes her sweet a smile and waves our sign for “I love you,” until finally we are out of each other’s sight.

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Fast forward thirty years later and I moved halfway across the country and find myself sleeping in a different time zone than my own parents, a feat neither they nor myself could imagine during those groggy midnight drives home. I probably cried the whole way, disappointed in myself for being different than the other kids, embarrassed that I cried about missing my mom and made a scene and forced my friends to wake up their sleeping parents so I could call my own.

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When my mom and dad flew me and the Goobies out to KC to meet you, I counted on the fact that I had long-since grown out of that homesick mess of a little girl I used to be. It didn’t occur to me that I might cry when I missed my mom in the middle of the night (I am a grown woman, after all), and thankfully being away from them isn’t as tough as it would have been years ago in my younger days. Still, saying goodbye was tough. I hugged my mom and dad casually, convincing myself it wouldn’t be long until they would be back to visit, but in all honesty if I had squeezed them tight I would have cried big, hot tears that would have made them want to whisk me home with them. Instead, I said, “See you later!” and smiled as they went, but as soon as the door closed, the tears started to fall. Sarah caught me up in a hug and soothed me with confessions that if were her saying goodbye to her mom, she would be crying too. (In fact, she did cry a little for me.)

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FaceTime and airplanes make the sting of separation more tolerable than my seven year old self would ever believe possible, but it’s still there, new and nagging like shoes that don’t feel like my own quite yet. This new life will break itself in soon, I know, and life –but for now, admittedly, I’m feeling a little homesick. Eating lots of my mom’s potato salad helps because it transports me to her kitchen, and I can almost feel her give me a squeeze hello when I walk inside.

Love,

Scratch

My Mom’s Potato Salad (for a Crowd)

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I know there are as many ways to make potato salad as their are mothers out there (read: zillions), but this is my favorite because it’s familiar (and both my Goobie girls enjoy it!). My mom has been making this for years and years–always by memory, and never from a written recipe. Somehow it always tastes the same, and when I attempted to make a batch last weekend to take to a family BBQ, I nailed it. One scoop and I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, but instead was in the backyard in the house on Los Arboles Place watching my mom flit around the kitchen in her pink apron with the white polka dots, smushing the potatoes with her expert hands, whisking together the dressing and hollering for my dad to come take a taste. I’m pretty sure my mom’s version is a little bit sweeter than mine, but marginally so. If you like your potato salad sweeter, then by all means: add more sugar. (Also, you’ll notice hard boiled eggs are no where to be found in this recipe: that is because my mother detests them. I, however, think they would make a lovely addition. Use your own discretion.) It’s naturally gluten free, dairy free, peanut/tree nut free, and sunflower seed free, so this is an easy addition to our arsenal of awesome picnic food.

Ingredients:

For the dressing–

  • 2 mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup bread and butter pickle juice (or regular sweet pickle juice)
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar (or more, to taste)

For the salad–

  • 5 pounds russet potatoes, boiled with skin on, then cooled and peeled
  • 2 cups diced celery (about five large stalks)
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion (or red onion, or whatever kind you prefer)
  • 1 cup diced dill pickles (or, if you prefer a sweeter salad, use sweet pickles instead
Method:

First, prep the potatoes: wash them thoroughly and plunk them into a large pot, then fill the pot with water. Add salt, about a tablespoon or so, and set the pot to boil. Check for doneness occasionally, but it took mine about an hour to cook through.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Whisk together all the mayonnaise, mustard, apple cider vinegar, pickle juice and sugar. This makes a lot of dressing, true: but you’ll need it. Put the dressing in the refrigerator until it’s time to toss with the salad.

Once the potatoes are fork tender, but not falling apart, remove them from the water and let them cool completely (to room temperature). While the potatoes are cooling, go ahead and do all your chopping so the veggies are ready to go.

Next, when the potatoes are room temperature, scrape the peels off and pile the cooked potatoes in a big bowl. Then, using both hands, squish the potatoes — and show no mercy!–in so that some turn to mush, and some just look like rough chunks. (You’ll just need to trust me on this one–keep at it and you’ll get the texture just right.) Add the diced celery, onions and pickles, then pour about 2 1/2-3 cups of the dressing on top and mix. Refrigerate overnight, if possible, then pour the remaining dressing on top and mix again just before serving.

 

Allergy Friendly · desserts · Friendship

These Are Gold, and S’Mores Pie

 

24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

-Deuteronomy 6:24-26

 

Make new friends but keep the old; those are silver, these are gold.

-Joseph Parry

Dear Joey,

I made two S’Mores Pies in the span of two days last week. My important, necessary work was met with your murmur of, “Another s’mores pie? I’m impressed!” This pie is dangerously easy, meaning there is a very good chance one will be waiting to meet you at the end of a long day’s work more often than perhaps it should. (Aren’t you the one who joked about buying a house where I could bake pies to my heart’s content and cool them by the windowsill? This problem is your fault.)

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Of all the pies, why S’Mores Pie? And why make two of them in two days? Fair question, and the answer can be found in a snippet of a conversation that happened several weeks ago now in my grandparents’ backyard between my BFF (as the Goobie girls would call her) Molly, and me.

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The conversation happened during those in-between days after you packed up the trucks and set off for Kansas, but before the Goobies and I hopped on an airplane to follow you. We were camped out at my grandparents’ house, laying low and trying to catch our breath after the frenzied weeks that led up to that point. The reprieve of the quiet was soothing at first, but turned stifling pretty quick without our usual arsenal of scooters, barbie dolls, monster trucks and art supplies. So we bought a kiddie pool and amused ourselves by splashing each other all day long. The kids got bored and I got anxious: we said goodbye but hadn’t left yet, and that span of four days felt tiresome without you. (Luckily hanging out with grandparents still entertains the Goobies for hours on end; I think it was me that was more anxious to go.)

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After a particularly insufferable day in which the heat and the attitudes converged and threatened to steal the last morsel of sanity left in reserve, my phone lit up and revealed a refreshing surprise from Molly: she was up from San Diego that weekend and wanted to know: “Any chance I could run up and give you a hug tomorrow?” My answer? Of course. I’m pretty sure I cried as I typed my reply, because my heart was feeling anxious and timid, like it needed a reminder that it could do brave, fun things. Molly always did that for me, and now on the verge of plunging into a great unknown, one more hug from a friend who has always given me the courage to be myself was a sweet gift indeed.

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Molly loaded her boys up into her minivan and made the trip over to see us and wrapped us up in big monster hugs and hung out with us in my grandparents’ backyard one more time. We spent the morning watching her boys attack the bowl of salsa I set out on a whim, scooping it up with chips so fast I could have sworn the kids hadn’t eaten in weeks. (I guess that’s life with boys?). In between bites her boys regaled me on everything from Broadway musicals to All Star games, and grilled me about my favorite kinds of sauce (chocolate, of course). Molly updated me on her teacher-life and how her son will turn student in her English class this year, and taught me how to use Facebook Marketplace to snag an amazing deal. We talked camping and s’mores and allergies too, and then, (and this is the clincher)–she told me about s’mores pie. (Real friends share all their best secrets, don’t they?)

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Our visit wasn’t emotionally charged with the pressure of saying goodbye; instead, it was just a normal visit. We’ve known each other since before we could speak or walk, and change is a constant in our friendship. College, marriage, children, moving away–every time something changes in our lives, John Rutter’s “The Lord Bless You and Keep You” rings in my ears and stings my eyes with the overflow of a swollen heart as we wrap our arms around each other for one more hug before parting. It reminds me of high school, and how things just kept changing after that last concert at Mission San Jose our senior year. All these years later, we knew this change wouldn’t alter our friendship. We parted ways with a hug and an unspoken (yet understood) blessing.

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And so, S’mores Pie stuck with me since our last visit on that old patio that saw us through our growing up years. When new opportunities began presenting themselves to engage with the people who populate this new life of ours, Molly and S’mores Pie were the things I couldn’t shake, and I found myself feeling like a shy kid all over again, leaning on my more outgoing best friend to help steady me as I jumped into new social situations. When we were kids, Molly was the one who first gave me courage to interact with others, forced me to join in instead of sitting at home bored and alone, and showed me how to be part of the life going on in front of me. She taught me how to make new friends.

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I am well past that now, really; social situations don’t tend to terrify me the way they did when I was a little girl, but in this unfamiliar place where history hasn’t knit me together with the people around me, I feel a little unsteady and uncertain, and I found myself wishing Molly were here so she could help break the ice for me. But in her stead, S’mores Pie helped me do that last week, and it turns out it was a suitable stand in: it’s interesting and special; never boring, always playful and fun–a conversation starter, for sure; comfortable and familiar even while it’s deep, rich, and complex. It’s so much like Molly, and taking it with me this week into two unfamiliar situations made me feel a little more empowered to be myself. Both Molly and that pie helped me take the first few steps toward forging new relationships, new friends, which I’m sure will be beautiful and sweet in their own right, too.

But this pie, this friend–these are gold.

Love,

Scratch

S’mores Pie

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Inspired to make S’mores Pie, but curious about other folks’ methods, I found this recipe that could easily be modified to fit our family’s food allergy requirements. I made that recipe as written the first time around (swapping out regular milk for flax milk; coconut milk for heavy cream; Enjoy Life Chocolate Morsels for the chocolate chips, etc.) but wasn’t satisfied with the end result. The next time around, I tinkered and came up with the version that is written below. Nana tasted it and loved the crust (Gluten free graham crackers for the win!), and declared the filling very rich indeed. I suppose the highest compliment came from my niece (who isn’t easy to impress when it comes to food), who came to find me after finishing her slice and asked, “Did you make the pie? It was really good.” (Also, an empty pie plate on the buffet table speaks volumes.) If your family doesn’t have food allergies, swap dairy ingredients for the non-dairy ones (milk = flax milk; heavy cream = coconut milk; butter = Earth Balance) and use regular graham crackers and chocolate chips. You can’t mess this pie up: it’s gold.

Note: I recommend using Kinnikinnick S’moreable Graham Style Crackers because they’re gluten free, dairy free, peanut/tree nut free, sunflower seed free, etc., and they make a crust that’s indistinguishable from its traditionally made cousin. I stock up when they go on sale at Sprouts.

Ingredients:

For the crust–

  • 2 cups gluten free graham cracker crumbs (Kinnikinnick brand, if possible)
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance vegan buttery spread, melted

For the filling–

  • 3/4 cup plain unsweetened flaxmilk (without protein)
  • 3/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 9 oz. Enjoy Life brand dark chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs, whisked
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of sea salt

For the topping–

  • 25 large marshmallows (or so), cut in half
Method:

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Next, crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs (the whole package of graham crackers, please), then mix the crumbs with the melted Earth Balance. Press the mixture into a 9″ pie plate and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is fragrant and golden (but not burned).

Meanwhile, while the crust is baking, whisk the eggs together until they’re a soft yellow color. Then, in a medium saucepan, warm the flax milk and coconut milk over medium heat and add the chocolate chips. Whisk until the chocolate is smooth. Turn the heat down to low. Ladle a little bit of the warm chocolate mixture (about 1/4 cup or so) into the whisked eggs and stir quickly, then pour the mixture into the pan of chocolate and whisk vigorously. Then, add the honey, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined. Remove the filling from the heat and set it aside until the pie crust is done.

One the crust is golden, remove it from the oven and pour the chocolate pudding-like mixture into the still-hot shell and spread the top smooth with a rubber scraper. (Then proceed to lick that scraper clean.) Put the pie back into the oven and bake for about 30 more minutes, or until the filling doesn’t jiggle or wiggle much at all when you move the pie plate.

While the pie is baking, snip the marshmallows in half. When the pie is done baking, change the oven from bake mode to broil mode, and set it to the low setting. Arrange the cut marshmallows on top of the just-baked pie and set on the middle rack under the broiler AND WATCH CLOSELY because it won’t take long for the marshmallows to puff up and turn golden brown. Remove the pie as soon as they look golden enough for your taste. (My pies are perfect after two minutes under the broiler.)

Refrigerate for 4 hours (or more, if you can)–but don’t cover it with plastic wrap unless you want an effective way to remove all the gooey golden goodness from the top of your pie. I know from experience.

Dairy Free · Faith · Family Life · Salads · Side Dishes

Learning to Weather the Storms, and Creamy Coleslaw

22 “[…] Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.”

23-25 Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat—and he was sound asleep! They roused him, pleading, “Master, save us! We’re going down!”

26 Jesus reprimanded them. “Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?” Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: “Silence!” The sea became smooth as glass.

Matthew 8: 22-26

Dear Joey,

Well goodness–yesterday when we are smack dab in the middle of a severe Midwestern thunderstorm, all those voices warning me that Midwestern weather will take some getting used to are echoing in my ears. I’m not sure the dreadful din of thunder will ever lull me into a peaceful sleep (like it does for you), but I suppose I’ll get used to it. I think. I hope.

I admit I panicked yesterday–not because tornadoes threatened to sweep us up and whisk us away from the new house we have still yet to fully unpack (although, I wondered if that was imminent…), but because black clouds clapping their tinny hands feels threatening, and let’s face it: hiding felt like the safest thing to do. I watched out the front window as those bulbous clouds stormed their way northeast, the direction you would be driving in a matter of minutes to start afternoon clinic. Next I paced up and down the kitchen, feigning calm and scolding the impulse to barricade myself and the kids in the basement, and wondering if the sky was that peculiar shade of green Sarah taught me goes hand in hand with an imminent tornado.

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But before long, the storm passed us by and the clouds dispersed and the sun poked its head back out again as the birds sang a little song just for me, soothing the angst right out of my system. Blue sky edged out the gray, and things seemed normal, which made me feel foolish for coming this close to ushering the Goobies down to the basement just in case (because I didn’t want to be the silly California girl who doesn’t know how to keep her kids safe in a storm). I’m not used to this stuff. It feels unfamiliar and scary, and I am tempted to heed the saying, “Better safe than sorry” and just stay home all the time, rather than risk being caught outdoors in weather I don’t know how to handle.

I have a lot to learn about living in this new reality, clearly. The weather patterns, the warning signs and systems, the precautions to take and the emergency procedures to take when the weather gets out of control. I keep asking questions, wanting very much to kick fear to the curb and let knowledge empower me to go outside and live, instead of letting fear keep me safely inside, away from things and people out there because there’s a chance the weather could change on a dime, thrusting me into an emergency situation for which I am not equipped.

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When you called me to let me know you were headed up to the other office, the one where the storm cloud was headed too–I bit my tongue and decided you must know things about staying safe in the middle of a storm that I simply don’t know yet, and I couldn’t help but think about the way feeding our family must feel to people who aren’t used to the day-to-day difficulties of feeding food allergy folks. Part of moving to this new place is figuring out how to integrate our persnickety food problems into unfamiliar territory, and helping other people understand what it takes to keep our family safe.

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At first, weather and food allergies don’t seem to be similar at all. But the more I think about it, the more I see what perhaps others don’t. Like severe weather, severe food allergies have patterns, but they are not a force limited to the things we think we know about them. All could be well and good when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, something triggers a chain reaction that could ultimately lead to a severe ordeal, and while most of the time things aren’t nearly as bad as they could be, there’s always a chance something major and tragic could happen. It is possible to live safely in severe weather happens, of course, just like it’s possible to live safely with food allergies. I’m learning that both require education, preparedness and vigilance, and neither demand hiding in the basement at all times.

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When it comes to severe weather, there are systems set up to keep the public safe. Very smart people who know a lot more about weather send out alerts and let us know when something threatening lurks in the clouds. There’s no need to panic, and everybody appreciates clear communication about the precautions we ought to take to stay safe. So it is with severe food allergies: there’s no need to panic, and clear communication about the precautions to keep people safe are welcomed and appreciated, too.

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Admittedly, integrating the Goobies into our extended family’s life felt risky, and I was tempted to panic like the disciples did when they started worrying about what might happen in the middle of the storm on the Sea of Galilee. They knew who was in charge, and yet–Jesus was asleep, and they wondered how they would be safe in the middle of the squall. They cried out to Him, and Jesus asked them why their hearts were faint, and that’s the part gets me every time. He was with them in the middle of the storm–did they really think they would succumb to the winds and waves? They focused on what they could see, not on what they knew to be true. That happens to me, too: fear tends to be a natural default when something scary surrounds me, whether it’s a black storm cloud or the threat of a possible allergic reaction. Don’t I know who is in charge? Hasn’t He promised to be with me in scary situations? (Fear not, for I am with you.” — Isaiah 41:10).

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I was scared to have those conversations: scared of being viewed as neurotic and over bearing; scared that no one would take us seriously; scared that bad things would happen despite the best intentions. Fear tempted me to believe I was better off alone, cowering in the basement instead of going out and being part of this family life that welcomed us with open arms. But I resisted, choosing instead to believe that the Lord really is with us in the midst of difficult circumstances. And so, we took the plunge and talked openly about what doesn’t work for our kids. Guiding everyone toward safety, instead of keeping quiet and crossing our fingers nothing bad would happen, was a proactive way to educate the people around us about what could happen and empower them to feed us without fear. It helped us stay vigilant, but also helped us to relax a little and enjoy each other, instead of feeling bitter and angry that our own little brood has frustrating food restrictions that make social life tough.

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And of course my fears were completely irrational because Andy and Sarah cleared out all the offending ingredients from the immediate reach of our food allergy kids; they graciously kept milk and cheese and yogurt off their kids’ menu for the duration of our stay with them; all the folks at the Maier family reunion willingly made it an allergy-free event and even learned to enjoy tacos without dairy adornments; your mom hosted a rollicking (and delicious) allergy-free 90th birthday for your grandma, who seemed to enjoy every last bite of that dairy free BBQ feast and didn’t seem to care one whit about whether there were dairy or nuts (or gluten, for that matter) missing from that enormous chocolate cake.

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At first, trusting family who aren’t used to the day-to-day food allergy issue felt like driving into an ominous storm cloud, and I admit I was both nervous to let go of control and let others feed us. I learned in a very real way that clear communication about precautions to take to keep our kids them safe is crucial, of course, but I also learned talking openly about it (instead of cowering in fear in the basement) helps all of us breathe a little easier. I’m not sure the nerves of eating anywhere other than our own home will ever completely subside (just like I’m pretty sure the threat of tornadoes will always keep me wondering if the sky is that particular shade of green), but I am crying thankful tears for this family of yours–of ours, who are invested in learning how to feed our kids well. Keeping our the Goobies safe comes naturally to them because our kids are their kids too.

Grandma Carol patted my arm and whispered to me as she settled back into her patio chair to watch her great-grandchildren frolic in slanted summer-evening sun, “I’ve never had a party like this before.” Neither had I, really, but I hope we have many more.

Love,

Scratch

 

Creamy Coleslaw

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The biggest hurdle for family get togethers is how to feed a lot of people easily, without making anyone feel like the food is anything but delicious. Lucky for us, BBQ tends to be a pretty easy answer for feeding a lot of people truly delicious food. This was the case for Joey’s Great Grandma’s birthday, and the biggest question was what to serve on the side. Store-bought prepared convenience foods pose a problem for our family, due to sneaky ingredients and less-than-trustworthy methods of preparation. Luckily side dishes like coleslaw are both easy and inexpensive, so volunteering to bring some along to the BBQ was a cinch. The highest compliment came from my mother-in-law, who said, “Not only could I not tell the difference, this is even better.” Coleslaw doesn’t need milk to be creamy, friends. Try this recipe and try to convince me otherwise.

Ingredients:

For the dressing–(the following yields 2 cups)

  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise (if your family is allergic to eggs, try using Just Mayo brand)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

For the salad–

  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
Method:

First, mix together the dressing and set aside. Next, shred the cabbage and carrots into a big bowl. Pour on some dressing, about a cup, and toss together until the cabbage is well coated. Add more dressing if it seems like it needs more, and it very well might. (Everyone seems to have their preference for how much dressing is on coleslaw, so go with your gut and don’t stress if you have a lot of dressing left over.) Let the salad sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving, if possible.

Uncategorized

The Gift of a Long Wait, and Home

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Matthew 7:7-11

Dear Joey,

Somehow summer is upon us and we are hemmed in by the same cardboard boxes we packed just a year ago. We unpacked, folded them up, and settled them in for a year long reprieve while we walked through a season of watching and waiting, expectant for God to move in big ways but not sure what those ways would look like.

The boxes multiplied while they were sitting there in the dark. We kept feeling like we didn’t have much to haul along with us until we flung open the door to the storage unit and panicked. Watching you load every last one of them and secure them for the long journey into an unknown future made me think of Abram, and how he packed up all he had and left his homeland to a place the Lord wrote on his heart. How hard it must have been to leave, and yet, how easy it must have been to go when God gave him the green light.

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Just a few nights before we finished transferring our things from storage to the house, and then from the house to the PODS, I felt fragile as an empty egg shell, and instead of tiptoeing around me, you clicked on our song and pulled me away from the dinner dishes and my tears fell freely as you spun me around the kitchen. My heart lilted with the lyrics as I watched thirty years of life swirl around me. The art easel my grandpa built when I was just a kid, decades worth of tempura paint layered to look like sunset, the piano my mom used to play as a little girl, chipped and out of tune; the blue couch we curl up on every night, now wrapped in layers and layers of green plastic; the breakfast dishes still piled high in the sink and the pink cardigan sweaters lazily strewn across the backs of kitchen chairs and the green onions I stopped chopping the moment you clicked on Ben Harper and beckoned me to dance; the afternoon’s orange light easing into evening blue and pouring in through the living room window making the empty house seem to sparkle as you spun me and I cried. I swear I could hear Addie’s first laugh and Mia’s first steps and Emery’s first big boy words echo down the hall as they played outside, self-sufficient and all-too-grown up for my heart to handle just then.

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The song ended and back to work we went: you, drawing baths and calling the Goobies in from their daily after dinner scooter-racing; me, cleaning up the remnants of a “clean out the fridge” dinner of bean burritos, bell peppers and grapes, and I was tempted to be angry that we didn’t just move to Kansas City a whole year ago instead of going through the rigamarole of moving into my childhood home again only to live in the middle of a mess of renovations and remodeling as my parents prepared to sell their home. The weight of a year of waiting suddenly lifted off my shoulders as I realized the days left within those harried walls were numbered, and the emotion of it all caught me by surprise.

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I won’t say I knew we would end up in Kansas City, but what I know for sure is God wrote KC on my heart several months ago, so when that’s where we decided to go, I wasn’t surprised. Waiting to see the way God would coordinate all the details was difficult. Trusting Him wasn’t hard; I knew He would come through because that’s what He does. Waiting was the hard part. Waiting for your heart to ignite with excitement; waiting for the right job; waiting for the right house; waiting for the Lord to deliver on the promises I stored up in my heart, the promises He seemed to give to me but not to you. It was hard to reconcile that discrepancy, but through it all, I carried the hope in my heart that there was indeed more to come.

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At first, we wondered if Southern California might be in our future, so we packed up the Goobies and hauled them down south, telling them we were going on vacation while exchanging knowing glances chalk full of hope that perhaps San Diego would be the place to plant our family. We poked around lovely neighborhoods, scoped out orthopedic practices and visited friends and family–and yet, on the drive up to Disneyland a few days later, neither of us felt like San Diego was the best fit for us, so we held out hope that the offer we made on a house in Dublin would put an end to our questions and show us definitively where to go next. But on Thanksgiving Day while we waited in a slow-moving line, right in the middle of a daydream in which I was unloading dishes and arranging pots and pans in that kitchen in Dublin, God whispered to me, That is not what I have for you. 

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I felt it in my spirit deeply, and the door to that dream closed quietly as I watched you hold on to Emery, who was weary of waiting and clinging to you tight, letting you carry him through the indiscernible maze that led to where he must go. It was then that the Lord wrote KC on my heart. Not a whisper, but a knowing, a promise written deep inside, like a label etched on the fragile face of the future. The next day, after we received news that our offer on the Dublin house had not been accepted, I wasn’t surprised. But I buried my face in a hotel pillow cried hard, hurt tears in a dark hotel room later that night, grieving for the loss of a dream, and very much wanting to go home. I let myself feel disappointment, but I clung to the promise that something better was coming, and I lived in a state of expectancy buoyed by the hope hidden in the deepest places of my heart, hope that marked us for something different, but something good.

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On the way home from Disneyland, after we scratched San Diego off our list, Emery began talking about his own dream: his very own Lightning McQueen race car that he could actually drive by himself, a gift he was absolutely, 100% certain would arrive on the doorstep for his birthday. After spending a few days at Cars Land, no one could convince him otherwise that a brown cardboard box bearing his “very own McQueen” would show up on the doorstep soon. So sure was he of this fact that he declared it to us daily with conviction, and he informed every willing ear that McQueen would indeed come.

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He kept vigil at the front windows for months, his face lighting up when a brown package showed up at our doorstep. He’d practically faint with excitement, so certain he was that this was it. There were many days we dealt with disappointment, of course, days when packages carrying other things arrived, leaving Emery disappointed and wondering.

“Oh! There’s a package! Is it McQueen?”

“No, buddy, but it’s not quite your birthday yet.”

Emery got frustrated and confused when he watched Papa or Nyome open the box he thought was meant for him, but that disappointment never extinguished his hope. We encouraged him that soon enough his birthday would come, “Hang on a little longer, buddy,” we’d say.

We knew what we were doing, of course: we had a plan all along. As soon as he told us about his dream, we had ordered and paid for and hidden away in the garage the exact thing for which he pined, keeping it out of sight until the exact moment we chose to give the gift. We knew Emery’s hope would not disappoint because we knew how the story go would go, and it was with that knowledge that we encouraged him to continue to wait patiently, expectantly, full of hope.

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Watching all this unfold even as we were waiting for our own hope to be realized was an ordeal that taught me about God’s perspective, and how He knows our hearts’ deepest desires. He doesn’t hold out on us but asks us to wait because he knows so much more than we know. He sees the day for which we wait. He sees it unfolding at the precise moment, and the day won’t arrive early because it’s appointed, it’s set up. It’s right. When Emery’s birthday finally came, when we finally released him to go see that Lightning McQueen was already there, waiting for him–he was not the least bit surprised. Excited, yes–but not surprised. The thrill of watching his hope realized was even better than surprise. And it was so much fun to watch his heart burst with joy.

He did not ask us for Lightning McQueen, really. He did not sweet talk us into it, bargain for it, or demand we get the thing for him. He simply knew a big day was coming and his heart declared that Lightning McQueen would show up. I think sometimes God asks us to listen to what our heart is already saying, and when that desire matches up with His desires for us, He asks us to wait in patient expectation for the moment He can whisper, “Now is the time.”

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Waiting is not easy. Holding on to hope is not easy either because it’s risky.  What if our hope is misplaced? What if it is deferred, dashed, or disappointed? What if things don’t turn out the way we think they ought to? Hope is a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. If Emery had never told us how much he wanted a Lightning McQueen car, do you think it would have showed up?  We would have gotten him something, of course, but we enjoy hearing our kids whisper the truth of what they most desperately hope for so we can do our best to make it happen in a fun, surprising way. I think that’s sort of what God is like. I think sometimes He waits for us to ask Him for what we want, instead of only ever giving us the things He thinks we need. If that’s the way He worked, our freewill, our choice, our individuality wouldn’t exist, would it? I think God always has a reason for saying, “Not yet,” and I think He gets a kick out of saying yes and giving us the things for which we ask.

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I’m not sure we’ve ever been more excited to watch one of our kids open a present on their birthday–and I am certain it is because we watched Emery ask and wait and hope and believe for months before his birthday.  Maybe that’s part of why God has us wait: because He enjoys watching our hearts explode with excitement at receiving our hearts’ desires. God gives good gifts, I am certain. Maybe not every moment of every day. And no, He does not give us everything we want (because like any good father, He knows giving us everything we want whenever we want it breeds selfishness and gluttony. How many times a day do I tell Emery No, you may not have fruit snacks?), but I know for sure that when He does give us good gifts, He smiles.

How do I know? Because I’m watching the Japanese Maple wave at me from just outside the front windows of our new home, surrounded by a glorious array of flowers planted here as if on purpose, just for us, waiting for you to come home from the new job I saw coming all those months ago, right here in KC, and my heart feels His smiling.

Love,

Scratch

 

Dairy Free · Food Allergy Family · Learning from Mistakes · What I Love Lately

What I Love Lately: Deliciously Dairy-Free Edition

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.”

1 John 3:18

Dear Joey,

I am a tear-stained wreck of a woman lately. Reading about food allergy-related deaths always breaks my heart. How could it not? Losing children is always tragic and confusing, but for me–for us–reading reports of children who died after eating a slice of cake contaminated with nuts at a family gathering, or who were served a grilled cheese at day care–these hit close to home, so I grieve. Those losses could have been our losses. Fear tries to pry my heart wide open and tempts me to believe our food allergy kids are next.

Maybe reading these stories were too hard on my tender heart still recovering from the trauma of feeling like we almost lost Emery a few weeks ago. Granted, the Epi Pen did its job and Emery is perfectly healthy in the aftermath of that ordeal, but in those tense moments when his floppy, swollen body failed to respond to us, panic saw an opportunity to slip right in, convincing me to live in a constant state of fear.

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I know I am not alone in this fight against fear: 5.9 million children in the US have food allergies, so clearly millions of other moms face that same fight every day, and let me tell you: fear is a vexing foe indeed. You know its true, because dads deal with it too. And grandparents and aunts and uncles and friends and teachers–goodness, the teachers. 5.9 million kids translates to one in 13 kids, which means roughly two kids in every classroom across America brings a food allergy to school with them every day. Moms like me have to stare fear down and tell it to go away even as we watch our kids walk out of our sight and into the care of others.

Fear whispers, You really think they’ll be safe out there? If you can’t even keep your own kids safe, how can you possibly trust anyone else will? I want to keep the kids at home forever and cook everything from scratch and magically all the food allergy threats disappear in the illusion of a homemade utopia that just plain doesn’t exist. Instead, the best I know to do is this: take an honest look at what we do to keep our own food allergy kids safe and figure out what we can do better. And goodness, we can do better.

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Remember how we banned peanuts from our house after Mia’s diagnosis? Somehow Emery’s allergies haven’t carried the same weight around here, not even in the aftermath of administering the Epi Pen or the subsequent trips to the ER. I’m not really sure why, other than peanuts are easier to avoid, and we don’t miss them nearly as much. Dairy is far trickier (especially since cheese is the one food that Mia will eagerly eat) because unlike peanuts, it is a ubiquitous pantry standby. Plus, we miss it when it’s gone. We eat cheese and drink milk and top our tacos with sour cream while a little boy with a severe allergy to the stuff watches, all while assuring him he doesn’t want any dumb old sour cream because it would make him sick– which I imagine is nothing short of confusing to a not-quite-three year old boy with a deep sense of justice.

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To be clear, we are not lackadaisical about Emery’s dairy allergy. We learned how to swap out dairy ingredients for non-dairy alternatives; we make meals that are dairy free; we keep dairy ingredients out of Emery’s reach; and we have rules about when and where the girls are allowed to enjoy dairy products; and we make sure foods are free from all-the-allergies on big days like Christmas (like Katz donuts for breakfast!)–but perhaps we are not as strict as we ought to be. We do not let peanuts or sunflower seeds or gluten into our kitchen (except for a few gluten-full cracker varieties for the Goobies), but we continue to allow milk products into our home despite the glaring fact that Emery has suffered allergic reactions and been rushed to the ER three times because of ingesting dairy (first milk; next whey; and then cheese). He’s been poked with the Epi Pen twice; spent days upon days hyped up and completely unlike himself as a result of steroids that ward of rebound reactions, pumped full of Benadryl countless times for additional minor incidents, and been subjected to disappointment every single day, watching his sisters eat cheese and begging to have some for himself only to be denied time and time again.

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The obvious answer is ban all dairy from our home. Why is it so hard to do that?  We tell Mia peanuts could cost her her life and our actions (rules, procedures, preparedness) show her we mean business. As a result, peanuts are not allowed in our home, period. But what about dairy? Love makes us say, “Sorry buddy, you can’t have sour cream on your taco because it will make you very sick,” but those words don’t mean anything to a preschooler who shouts “No fair!” and pouts.

1 John 3:18 tells me words are not enough, and that action infuses words with meaning. Without action, words are empty. Clearing out the kitchen of offending foods and eating dairy free in front of the boy would be far more loving than eating the stuff in front of him. Plus, choosing to forego the stuff will help Emery understand the severity of his allergy and assure him of the security of our love (wouldn’t it?) Keeping the sour cream off the table and out of our home communicates love far more than simply saying “No sour cream for you, bud” as we dollop the stuff on our own tortillas.

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I can make my peace with foregoing sour cream on taco night, and I imagine you and the girls could do the same. It’s the cheese that poses the biggest problem around here. What on God’s good earth would Mia eat if we cease to allow dairy in the house? Then again, what awful fate might Emery suffer if we continue to keep it around?

The good news is this: in the nearly three years since Emery first started showing signs of his allergy, we have built an arsenal of delicious dairy free alternatives that help us make everyone around our table happy. This is a big deal because while dairy free products are not hard to find, finding delicious ones is far more difficult. What I love lately, though, are dairy free alternatives that actually make the Goobies cheer–all three of them.

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For example, the So Delicious brand is my hero because, true to its name, their products are actually really yummy. The Goobies cheer when you announce there’s ice cream for dessert, which happens on a fairly regular basis around here. (We do our best to keep these kids feeling normal, and darn it if a scoop of chocolate coconut milk ice cream helps them feel like regular kids? So be it.) Ditto for their take on non-dairy whipped topping CocoWhip, a treat that redeemed the idea of non-dairy whipped topping in my book because not only is it truly non-dairy (Cool Whip is not non-dairy!), it is also made of better ingredients than its dairy-laden competitor. Also, Emery is pretty smitten with their lunch box size Chocolate Coconut milk boxes, which he’s lovingly dubbed monkey juice. Everyone around here likes it, actually–a triple win!

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Maybe the biggest win in our quest toward a more dairy free household is Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, which gives creamy dreamy comfort food a chance to grace our table again. Before we discovered it, Grandma Teague’s famous Golden Potatoes were relegated to memories of Christmas past, but I’m happy to report Grandma’s Golden Potatoes are back. Even better than the shreds, though, are the American cheese slices that make Daiya brand vegan cheese taste as bad as Mia insists it is (and honestly, we don’t disagree). Follow Your Heart slices make grilled cheese sandwiches that fool even our toughest critic in our house. The sheds and slices both melt fantastically over a pan of hot gluten free elbow noodles too, making a fast and inexpensive (and yummy!) dairy free mac & “cheese” that makes me believe miracles can happen. (I just toss in a handful of cheddar style shreds or a few torn pieces of the American style slices into a hot pan of drained gluten free noodles along with a tablespoon or so of our favorite dairy free butter alternative Earth Balance Buttery Spread and a splash of plain rice milk and stir until smooth.)

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Food speaks to the soul, so let’s use words and actions, both. Together they can nourish the body, soothe the spirit and make our kids us feel loved. Serving safe foods that taste delicious is the one of the most loving things I can think to do for our food allergy family. I am thankful for these few dairy free foods that help convince us all that sacrifices don’t have to leave us feeling unsatisfied or left out.

Love,

Scratch

 

Control · Family Life · Food Allergy Family · Wrestling with Reality

Bananas, Strawberries, and Everything We Need

Our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be.

2 Thessalonians 1:2 (MSG)

Dear Joey,

Mia is giving us fits lately. The stubborn little thing digs her heels in deep, stance stable and set, screaming “just try to get me to move.” It doesn’t work. She knows what she wants, and she doesn’t let up. It’s aggravating.

This is especially true at mealtime, when that kid flat out refuses to eat what she is given, insisting the only thing she will eat is macaroni and cheese and strawberries so if we would just get it through our heads that if we relented and gave her what she wanted, she would stop making a fuss at the dinner table. But we are the grown ups, so we hold our ground too and we give her the choice to eat what is provided or not at all. Let’s be clear: we are not giving her liver and onions for dinner, or whole roasted trout with lima beans. We are serving things like chili and tortilla chips; grilled chicken and rice; or hamburgers, for crying out loud. Normal, approachable food that other kids cheer for. But no matter: she will not yield to the things we provide. She does this because more often than not, she just plain does not like our choices for her.

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An example: bananas and strawberries. I have lost track how many times this girl has cried over them. I have cried happy tears over an impossibly sweet strawberry in the middle of summer too, but tears over bananas? The ubiquitous childhood snack heralded for its palatability among children? (Yes. So many tears.) The only way Mia dares put them in her mouth is if chocolate has rendered the banana completely unrecognizable (as in chocolate chip banana muffins). No matter how we try to spin them, the cost of eating a banana rarely tends to be worth the act of chewing and swallowing it. She does not enjoy bananas, so she does not see the point in eating them. But strawberries are an entirely different story. She would willingly eat strawberries with every meal every day of every week of every month of every year. When strawberries are the seasonal star, we let herself eat them to her hearts’ content because we buy them by the crateful every week. But in the dead of winter when strawberries are not in season, we cannot serve them often, if at all.

And so, fights. Tears. Begrudging obedience. In the process, we remind her about her choice in all this: she gets to decide whether to eat what is given to her or not (“Listen: we won’t always give you what you want, but we will always give you what you need. What you need is good food to fill your tummy. Tonight, it’s meatloaf, so we suggest you eat a few bites of it because you’ll be hungry if you don’t.”) Whether she leaves the table with a full stomach or not is her choice–not ours. We are off the hook because we provided the good food she needs to stay healthy and strong. We hope she will choose to fill her belly with the things we have provided, but we cannot make her swallow that darn meatloaf any more than we can make sweet strawberries flourish in the dead of winter. We can beg, bargain, cajole or get plain mad, but why bother? We have given her what she needs. The rest is up to her.

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I have been spending time with the Israelites, digging in to their story of rescue and redemption, finding myself knee deep in the wilderness just like they were. The manna situation reminds me very much of our struggle with Mia because no one really wanted the manna, a perfect, delicious, plentiful food they could count on to keep them well fed and comfy. It was superior to all the other food they ever ate in Egypt (I mean, this stuff was heavenly, right?), and yet they complained about it, even resented it perhaps. I wonder how many times they ate it with hearts begrudging the hand that fed it to them and wishing they could have something else, anything else. I bet they wondered why God did not seem to care they were craving the foods they really loved, the foods they missed from their old way of life. I imagine they toyed with the thought that if God really loved them as much as He said He did, He would give them the things they wanted most instead of forcing them to subsist on something they clearly did not prefer. But their ideas for what was best for themselves did not line up with God’s ideas of what was best for them.

So it is with us.

I gave Mia a banana on her dinner plate the other night, and she took one look at the the handful of slices piled up next to her peas and exclaimed, “You know  I don’t like bananas. Why would you put them on my plate?” I know bananas have potassium and magnesium and fiber, and I know the dessert she will be ask for after dinner does not have any of those things, and those nutrients are important to keep her healthy and strong. I know strawberries are expensive in the middle of winter and spending $5 every day on a measly pack of lack luster mid-winter strawberries is simply not going to happen. I know I have a jar of her beloved chocolate powder in the cupboard that I just have not put on the table yet, and I know I am going to sprinkle some of that powder on her bananas so that she will eat a few bites, at least. I know things about the food on her dinner plate she that does not know, but I also know things about her dinner plate she just could not know on her own.

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And ooof, if that is not the conclusion I have been drawing day after day in this long haul of a season that has left me broken in so many ways. My ideas for my own life clearly are not the same as God’s ideas for my best life. That thought is deep and marred by the fear that if my ideas for my life are good ones, and if God’s ideas are different than my own really, really good ones, I am tempted to believe that God’s ideas are not good. I identify with those grumbling Israelites: manna is monotonous and where’s the milk and honey you promised and why do we have to stay out here in the wilderness for so long anyway? I signed up for the Promised Land, and this is not it. Your plans must not be as good as I thought.

And like those grumbling Israelites, I keep complaining about the things I find filling up my proverbial plate, all while insisting God simply remove them and replace them with the things I want instead. I don’t want a sick, dysfunctional digestive system. I don’t want a life long battle with chronic conditions; I don’t want to take pills everyday; I don’t want to have surgery; I don’t want to have kids with food allergies; I don’t want to live in fear of gluten or peanuts or milk or any of the other allergens that cause serious problems in our household. I want a healthy body, and I want our kids to have healthy bodies too, and it doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request, either. I want to like what is on my plate, and I just plain don’t. And in the middle of it, I am convinced God is telling me the same thing we tell Mia every day: I won’t always give you what you want, but I will always give you what you need.

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Last week, I went to bed hungry, so to speak, sulking and angry because I was just so over what is filling my proverbial plate these days. Finally, finally, after months of feeling crazy, my GI doctor discovered I have biliary dyskinesia, which basically means my gall bladder is not working. Since I don’t have gall stones, I have been presenting with a mysterious symptoms that no one understands. Test after test after test insisted nothing was wrong with me, which clearly I knew wasn’t true. Either the doctors were terrible at their job or this phantom pain was a psychological invention, not a physical reality. But a HIDA scan showed the truth: my gall bladder wasn’t functioning correctly and out it must come. I had never been so happy to hear bad news.

Two days after surgery I was fretting over the level of pain I did not expect. Unrealistic expectations of a quick and easy recovery made my post-op pain feel like a death sentence. In the middle of it, I flung myself out of bed to help you find the emergency medicine bag; you were flustered and rushed, and the gravity of the situation forced me to move faster than perhaps my still-recovering body should have moved. But when Emery laid in your arms, swollen and floppy, eyes closed and unresponsive, I forgot about my own pain and flew to find the Epi Pen and administered it without reservation, even though I knew the sudden poke would hurt Emery. The fact that he would not enjoy the sudden sting of that shot paled in comparison to the reality that worse things would happen if I chose his comfort over what was best for him. His tears were a necessary problem to have in a grave situation like that. The tears told us he was alive. The tears, perhaps, even saved his life. I put something on his plate he didn’t want: pain. But I know things he doesn’t know. I won’t always give him what he wants, but I will always give him what he needs.

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I don’t want this reality, this life marred by pain and sickness and a body wracked with stuff that gets in the way of normal life. I’m mad that my own plate is brimming with disease, discomfort, and dietary restrictions that have left me sick and lost and confused and isolated. I’m frustrated that food allergies fill our kids’ plates, and I’m confused as to why God would think they’re a good idea when He knows how much we hate them. It’s bananas.

I don’t know why God is filling my plate with things I rally against, but I am not going to bed hungry tonight. Instead, I am choosing to believe the possibility that these things I loathe are making me into who I am, nourishing me in their own unique (unsavory) ways. I trust God knows things about all this I don’t know–couldn’t know. I don’t believe He’s unkind. I don’t believe He’s unjust. I don’t believe He’s singled us out to be on the receiving end of his wrath or ill-will. I believe the opposite, even though I’m eating bananas. And while I wish he would always give me what I want, I am thankful He will always, always, give me what I need.

Love,

Scratch

 

 

 

Allergy Friendly · Being Changed · Joy · Snacks

Adapting Amid Disappointment, and (Allergy Friendly) Classic Chex Mix

Dear Joey,

For the third year running, the Goobies and I trick-or-treated without you. It all started a couple years ago when you kissed us goodbye and flew far away to say your last goodbyes to your grandpa. We missed you, but it was easy to forgive your absence that year. But the following year, our excitement to have you home with us was short lived: Vertigo stole you from us early Halloween morning (remember?) and didn’t return you back to us until well into the night. The timing of your illness surprised and irritated me and I found it difficult to play the sympathetic wife in the midst of my own disappointment, and I vowed to keep my expectations for future Halloweens low from then on.

Easier said than done, of course.

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In hindsight, I realize I made myself an empty promise because why wouldn’t I expect you to spend Halloween with us?  In the days leading up to Halloween this year, you doted on the Goobies, going above and beyond (ahem, spoiling them) with costumes this year in a subconscious attempt to make up for your absence the past two years, I think, and all the while I was bracing for the blow that hadn’t even come. Until then, out of nowhere, it did: urgent surgeries had been scheduled for Halloween night. It wasn’t your fault, of course, but my disappointment made me want to blame you. Can’t you get out of it? I begged. This is the third year in a row. Your hands were tied, there was nothing you could do, and so I excused myself from the conversation, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried.

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As the tears fell, I realized I wasn’t really mad at you. I was upset about the situation and  confused by your seemingly cool attitude toward it. You didn’t seem nearly as ticked off as I felt, and that bothered me. But oh, those Goobies. They are defenders and copycats, a dangerous combination when adversity tempts me toward a bad attitude. But I was quick to remember that if I continued to slink around with a chip on my shoulder, they would do the same. I didn’t want them to be angry with you. Disappointment is part of life. People will let us down, but what we do with that disappointment matters most.  After a moment or two, I wiped my eyes and shook off the crazy, resolved to make the best of it.

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All of this reminded me of a story Sally Clarkson tells about how her husband’s work took him away from their young family more often than she appreciated. An otherwise doting and involved father, his career took a turn that demanded a bit more time and effort than anyone at home really enjoyed. One night in particular, Sally was particularly not happy about having to say goodbye, but she knew showcasing a bad attitude about the ordeal would give resentment a foothold–not only in her heart, but in her kids’ hearts too. So instead, she chose to send him off with waves and smiles from happy kids, then wrapped her arms around her them after he had gone and suggested with a smile they go inside for cheeseburgers and a movie. She chose not to let disappointment dictate her behavior. I realized, I ought to do the same.

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I didn’t make cheeseburgers like Sally did, but I did make Chex Mix. And corn dogs. And I served dinner on a festive table with candy corn strewn this way and that in an attempt to bring fun into what could have been a bummer of an evening, if I had let it. In the days leading up to Halloween, all I could see was my own disappointment over the past few years. Until then it didn’t occur to me how disappointed you must have been. You were the one having to do hard things instead of traipsing through the neighborhood asking for candy with the kids. Dealing with death, suffering through illness, and working late into the night are not the same as skipping out on your family. You were forced to spend another evening missing out on all the fun. My moping around and holding a grudge wouldn’t make any of it easier on you; if anything, it made it more difficult–and not only for you, but for all of us.

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We missed you, of course, but we had fun anyway. Friends came over and my folks skipped choir and we all bounded out the door toward an evening of fun–all because, well, what good does it do to sulk? Life’s let downs aren’t easy to face, but it is possible to adapt amid disappointments. We just have to choose to do so, which admittedly, isn’t easy or immediate, but it is always worth it. When you finally made it home to rest late that night, you flicked through the pictures on my phone and laughed out loud, heart bursting to see your Goobies smiling.

Love,

Scratch

Classic Chex Mix (Gluten and Dairy Free Style)

IMG_3844In our house, Chex Mix in October is like cookies in December: you can’t have one without the other. The warm, savory scent of this stuff crisping up in the oven plunges me right back into the Octobers of my high school years when I first started making it on my own. I must have learned how to do it from my dear friend Molly’s dad (thanks Allan!), although I don’t remember him ever showing me how. But I do remember him making it every year without fail, a tradition both Molly and I have embraced as our own, in our own ways. Clearly, our family makes it both gluten and dairy free, but believe me when I tell you you cannot taste a difference. This version is every bit as fantastic as its gluten-and-dairy laden cousin. Chex Mix is an effortlessly customizable treat, food allergy flexibility at its finest.

Note: If you want to use wheat Chex in addition to rice and corn, use 3 cups each rice, corn and wheat, for a total of 9 cups of Chex cereal.

Ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 4 1/2 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 2 cups gluten free pretzels (such as Trader Joe’s or Snyder’s)
  • 1 cup almonds, or mixed nuts (or omit altogether if your family is allergic to them. No big deal!)
  • 7 Tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan buttery spread), melted
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
Method:

First, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, in a large bowl, mix together the cereal, pretzels and mixed nuts. In a separate small bowl, mix together the Earth Balance, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Drizzle the seasoned sauce over the dry ingredients. Using your hands, toss the mixture well until evenly coated. Pour onto a cookie sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for a total of an hour. Pour the mixture onto a big paper grocery bag (that’s been cut open, as shown below) and let it cool. (The mix gets crunchier as it cools.)

IMG_3853This is what a double batch looks like, about 24 cups worth. A single batch (as written above) yields about 12 cups.